The Guardian • Issue #2081

Good Housing: A Human Right for all Australians

  • by Ron Hall
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2081
Mother and children walking into sunset.

Photo: Mohamed Hassan – stockvault.net (CC0).

Residents of the remote community of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) in the Northern Territory have just won their right to enjoy safe and healthy housing, along with compensation for unacceptable delays and treatment that they had to endure in a drawn-out process.

Amazing levels of determination were required by this small “Top End” community of First Nations people to achieve what is a common expectation for most Australians, although good housing is becoming a diminishing reality in a profit-motivated society. Indeed, the perseverance of this remote Indigenous community and their success could have implications for renters in particular across the nation.

Recent increases have doubled rents for two thirds of remote Indigenous tenants, regardless of how dilapidated a dwelling might be as a result of government neglect. The NT government needs to set a much higher standard as a provider of accommodation, especially for those in disadvantaged situations.

In a society that supposedly recognises no divisions, why should remote Indigenous communities be subjected to such a systemic failure that has taken years to resolve? In more recent development in Western Australia a class action probe into public housing is now underway seeking to have dilapidated housing repaired and brought up to standard. Repeated requests to authorities fall on deaf ears.

No Australian should need to take a case to the High Court of the nation merely to have long overdue repairs made to their accommodation; even less so when it is government owned.

“The NT government’s neglect of remote housing impacts communities across the territory … and all tenants across the country,” claimed Dan Kelly, solicitor for the community, from Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights.

As we approach the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commemorated on 10 December, we need to contemplate how well capitalist Australia is meeting the challenges presented by what is arguably the most significant document of the 20th century, despite its somewhat chauvinistic mode of expression. Given the current rates of homelessness in prosperous nations like Australia and the issues faced by tenants, Article 25, Part 1 of the Declaration has become especially relevant, as quoted below with the writer’s emphasis.

Article 25

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Only under a socialist system can the highly vaunted Australian dream of occupying and possibly owning a habitable residence be shared by all. In fact, having a good home remains not just a human right but a benefit for the nation as a whole. Better health outcomes and employment prospects, along with safer family situations, are among the many substantial gains from a successful national housing program.

Ron Hall: Secretary, Aboriginal Advancement League, South Australia

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